On day three of my v3 work experience, I found myself in a workshop on “The Future of Branding".
The session was part of the Future London Academy’s Future of Branding week, where senior creatives and marketeers are hosted by top brand companies across the capital to explore what lies ahead.
v3’s point of view? The future of brand is now.
With brands more deeply embedded within consumer behaviour than ever, brands are actually helping define that behaviour and, in doing so, shaping the future. Brands are no longer a set of guidelines; they are living entities. How these brands are constructed defines how customers experience it. Every brand or design or strategic decision made today is influencing consumer brand expectations of tomorrow.
Three big takeouts from the session…
AI & BRAND EXPERIENCE:
With the increasing understanding and accessibility of machine learning tools, brands are both having to deal with and capitalise on the new ways that they must engage. Amazon Alexa and Google Home, for example, mean soon we will have our brand AI speaking to their brand AI. Does machine to machine conversation need a tone of voice guidelines?
By 2020, it is predicted that 85% of all customer service will be powered by AI.
In this world, traditional brand tools may actually become even more important as Chatbots and algorithms might only do what we programme them to do. Can personality be built on binary code? This presents a big question of whether artificial intelligence will ever deliver the craft and nuance of great brands without emotional intelligence?
As the technological revolution continues to change the world at pace, brand experience design will have to work hard not just to keep up, but lead by example. Brand brings the real-world issues, creativity and emotional intelligence the category is really lacking.
With growing brand engagement and information overload comes a growing need for managing reputation and building and retaining trust. As social media, review platforms and app-led businesses become increasingly influential, it is how brand navigates and partners with these platforms that will be the definition of brand success.
In this space, the future for brands points towards transparency in a new ‘sharing economy’ where the focus is no longer on the institutions surrounding the brand, but on the people who represent them. In just a few years we have gone from “stranger, danger” to happily sleeping in a random person’s house thanks to Airbnb and hopping in an unmarked taxi with Uber. In short, ownership is changing. With original meaning of branding based on ownership, our entire category will have redefine what brand’s role is in the mix.
With such complexity, fragmentation and volatility of change it is more important than ever for brands to be led by purpose. It is these brands that are shaping their markets and the future. Purpose gives permission to fail, connects better with consumers’ lives and presents lateral opportunities for growth and innovation. As a result, it’s a race for the high ground. As markets get increasingly saturated and competition increases it is those with the higher purpose and the better connection that will prevail like for like, ceteras parabus. This is not just audience connection. 72% of employees have increased meaning and motivation and 89% have a strong sense of collective purpose when they work in companies with a truly purpose-led strategy.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the behaviour behind the business. The pressure is on to live up to the promises that they make. Volkswagen, Sports Direct and Uber have been tainted and subsequently held accountable for their actions; impacting their brand equity and their bottom line.
At the core of a brand’s purpose are the questions: Why does this business exist? What gives it the right to? Both now and in the future.
Consumers want to understand the businesses behind their products. What they stand for, why and - most importantly - if it aligns with their values.
The race to the top is already in play, as brands are finding out that lip service is no longer enough.
To future-proof brands, businesses need to occupy a space above their competitors; creating a distinctive, category-redefining, behaviour-driving purpose fit for a changing world.